Everyone enjoys a good cry now and then, right? Not only that, but there is a great need to tell stories that not only shed light on tough subjects but especially ones like death and illness. Children do not escape these tragedies sadly, but the wonderful truth is that there are many great resources out in the market today that highlight what can be done thoughtfully to help them through difficult times or perhaps simply open discussions. These are a few of my favorites that I often cite as comp titles for submissions as I feel appropriate and are also ones we have in our home that my children both love.
The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic and Olivier Tallec
A longtime favorite in our home, this story tells the tale of a young boy who has lost his mother in bright reds and loud bold fonts. The emotion and feeling is clear from the beginning. Multiple readings have brought numerous conversations about where we go when we die, what happens to the people who are left behind and how do we not continue to be sad? Big questions for little kids, but they are ready and eager to talk about them! I promise!
Ida, Always by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso
A beautiful story based on a true event that again propels young readers to ask questions. This text begins with a beautiful friendship, but also delves into what happens when one of the two becomes ill. This could be applied to any relationship and isn’t featured in many books. What happens after the loss is also unique as the book shows the full arc and not just one side. Again, a beautiful telling of a heartbreaking yet also heartwarming story; a wonderful mentor text.
Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley
This is another stunning book about dealing with grief in a positive and actionable way that can bring hope and momentum back to a child’s life. Because of the vagueness of the outcome of the father character it also provides the opportunity to reach more than one target audience; it could potentially reach those that are separated from their father due to divorce, separation, death or any other variety of reasons. A broad and far reaching book in the category.
Black Dog by Levi Pinfold
Oh, Black Dog, is a favorite of mine! It’s message about courage and fear is marvelous. Perhaps the best aspect is that the courage comes from the smallest in the family; that none of the others wish to tackle the large dog, but the smallest among them will go out and conquer! It’s a wonderful story about overcoming ones fears and triumphing despite the noise of others/world.
The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
If any on this list could already be called a classic, I’d venture to say The Heart and the Bottle, would be it. The story of a girl who experiences a tragedy so difficult she must lock her heart away in a bottle to protect it from the heartbreak she might suffer – just might suffer. Not only a beautiful way to help young and old help to recover from the loss of something deep and difficult, but also a filled with gorgeous illustrations to explore that help highlight the sparse text.
Scrawny Cat by Phyllis Root and Alison Friend
When I think of loss and discovery I almost always think of Scrawny Cat. When I first discovered Phyllis Root’s writing it was through this gorgeous book and truly hopeful story of a cat that has been misplaced. Homeless, foodless and alone poor scrawny cat needs nothing more than to be loved. What more do any of us need? The range of emotion and beauty in the text took my breath away, especially when accompanied by the stunning illustrations. I have to pinch myself now that I represent Phyllis as her literary agent.
All of these books deal with loss, grief, courage, hope or recovery in some form, but above all they have at their core…heart. Find the heart of your story and there you will find your true and most meaningful story. A good cry every now and then isn’t too bad either.
Danielle is giving away a 30-minute phone consultation to help one lucky ReFoReMo participant improve their query writing skills in April! To be eligible for this prize, please comment on this post and strive to read mentor texts regularly.
Danielle Smith is currently an Agent and the owner of Lupine Grove Creative, LLC. Beginning January 2017 Danielle opened Lupine Grove, a boutique literary agency for children’s book authors and illustrators that also packages books for publishers. She began her agent career at Fuse Literary in 2013, but made the move to Red Fox Literary in March of 2014 where she represented children's book authors and illustrators alongside her mentors at Red Fox Literary LLC. Danielle is the mother of two wonderful children and wife to a practicing attorney.